Bulls

Multiple options have emerged at the wing for Thibodeau

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Multiple options have emerged at the wing for Thibodeau

Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau has one of those good kind of problems right now.

With the return of shooting guard Rip Hamilton to the lineup after missing nearly a month with a torn left plantar fascia, the Bulls suddenly have a crowded wing rotation, after reserves Marco Belinelli and Jimmy Butler both emerged as reliable options during the veterans absence, not to mention the fact that league minutes-per-game leader Luol Deng rarely leaves the court.

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Saturday night, it worked out for Thibodeau, as Belinelli led the Bulls in scoring while Hamilton worked his way back into the lineup and with Deng, coming off a sprained right ankle suffered in the teams Christmas Day loss to Houston, having an off night, Butler picked up the slack down the stretch by bringing his typical energy and timely shot-making ability.

But Belinelli, who was consistently solid in Hamiltons absence, was the story Saturday, as he seamlessly adjusted to coming off the bench again.

Marco was terrific. Hes been playing well for a long time now. Big shots, big plays, said Thibodeau, who noted that he wasnt sure yet about whether Belinelli would remain a backup, adding that Were going to go back and forth with that.

I think its his confidence. When youre new to a team, I think he was trying to fit in, trying to learn the system, but hes already proven to be a good player in this league, so you knew it was a matter of time, the coach continued. Once he had a better understanding of his teammates and his teammates had a better understanding of him, hes very good. He can score a lot of different ways. He can score in catch-and-shoot, he can score in pick-and-rolls, he can score in transition, he can make plays, so well try and use him a lot of different ways, but I think hes a lot more comfortable. So therefore, hes a lot more aggressive.

Belinelli himself added: I think just aggressiveness. I came on the court in the first quarter and I tried to bring to the team a little bit of energy on defense and offense, and I think tonight was good.

I think it was more important to get confidence in my shots, the shooting guard, who indicated he didnt care whether he started or came off the bench, as long as he got ample playing time, went on to say about his improved play since struggling early in the season. He was a little bit nervous, not too much confidence in myselfwhen you play a lot, when youve got some plays for you like pick-and-rolls, floppy down when you can create something for your teammates and you win the game, you feel good, so right now my confidence is okay.

Hamilton was supportive of Belinelli afterwards, suggesting that as a shooting-guard tandem, the duo could be an effective two-man platoon.

MORE: Hamilton makes his return to Bulls' lineup

Im going to put pressure on him to continue to play that way because we need him. We need every guy on this team, he explained. I always say when youre going to a team and youre doing a scouting report, and you say, All right, this is the guy thats starting and this is the guy thats coming off the bench, and you know youve got to put out a whole lot of effort against the guy thats starting and the guy thats coming off the bench, sometimes you can relax. I dont want that to be with us. When we go out and play, the guy thats guarding us, thats out on the floor, has to worry about both of us.

I think with him, everything has to do with confidence. It was opportunity for him to have to look over his shoulder, not knowing when hes going to come out. It was an opportunity where he was thrown out there and it was like, Okay, youre going to play. Regardless of if you make mistakes or you do well, youre going to play because we need you.

As far as Deng, the All-Star small forward said his ankle felt good afterwards and didnt take offense at the fact that Butler, his understudy, finished the game in his stead.

I really didnt mind. It happens, he said. Jimmy came in and did a good job.

Thibodeau added: It was just the way the game was going. I thought Jimmy gave us some energy and right now, were playing low energy, so I thought that energy was something we needed. His defense was very good and I thought Lu played well. Its just the way that group was going, we just rode it out.

Butler understands that he could be the odd man out on certain nights, now that Hamilton is back and Belinelli will take up the majority of the remaining shooting-guard minutes, leaving him with Dengs leftovers, of which there arent many on a regular basis.

RELATED: Belinelli, Bulls hold off Wizards

But the Marquette product is determined to stay consistent and at least on Saturday, he felt Good, knowing you can give Lu a break, for one. Hell, he plays damn near 48 minutes every night, so I know hes happy about it over there, soaking in his ice bath, but it feels good to go out there and play, and have him coach me up from the sideline.

One night I could see this many minutes, the next night, this many minutes. It all depends on how hes feeling and how things are going within the game, he continued. It definitely is, but I feel like my name will get called eventually. I know that. Well, I cant say I know that for a fact, but Im hoping it does and when it does, go out there, play hard, make a few shots and guard.

Options if the Bulls trade down: Gonzaga forward Rui Hachimura

Options if the Bulls trade down: Gonzaga forward Rui Hachimura

On draft night, there is a decent possibility that the Bulls front office looks at their draft board and collectively decide that they can get a player with No. 7 pick value later in the first round. They could be inclined to feel this way more than in most years due to the 2019 draft class being such a toss up after the top three picks. If the Bulls traded down in the draft, I am assuming they would be netting a valuable future first-round pick, likely with some minimal protections. In this series, we will be looking at prospects the Bulls could take should they trade down in the 2019 NBA Draft.

Rui Hachimura per The Stepien:

71 percent at the rim

44.2 percent on short midrange

47.6 percent on long midrange

52.1 percent on NBA 3s (12/23)

Boylen talked a ton this season about “toughness” being a key tenet of the new Bulls culture moving forward. The idea of that “toughness” didn’t translate on the court heavily, though the Bulls did improve slightly in rebound rate under Boylen.

From the time for Boylen took over, the Bulls ranked 14th in defensive rebound rate and 25th in total rebound rate, up from 16th and 28th respectively under Hoiberg. Those numbers are a bit of smoke-and-mirrors with all the factors at play this past (weird) Bulls season.

But Boylen did have a much heavier focus on generating points inside first, with the team ranking third in the league in points in the paint per game during his tenure. Rui Hachimura fits in extremely well with the idea of the Bulls punishing teams inside with low-post scoring depth, resulting in open looks on the perimeter.

Hachimura stands 6-feet-8-inches tall, 230 lbs., with a 7-foot-2-inch wingspan. He is a very physical player and utilizes his wingspan incredibly well in traffic. Hachimura posted a 17.4 percent defensive rebound rate over his three-years at Gonzaga. I mentioned above how Hachimura embraces contact and his career average of 7.5 free throw attempts per 40 minutes helps showcase his ability to be a wrecking ball in the paint.

He has the potential to excel as a small-ball center with the right personnel surrounding him. The fact that he can grab a defensive board and initiate the fastbreak makes him an even more valuable prospect. But when you consider that lineups with he and Markkanen as the two bigs on the floor would have five capable ball-handlers, the idea of Rui in Chicago becomes even more enticing.

Overall, Hachimura is a great prospect with a solid skill set that should allow him to be a decent scorer from day one, it all just depends on how much of an opportunity he gets.

The Bulls--as John Paxson has reiterated many, many times now--feel comfortable with the starters they have at the two, three, four and five positions, with point guard being their main area of weakness. While the Bulls don’t necessarily need another big, they do need to add productive players who are young. With Boylen’s emphasis on having multiple ball-handlers, driving the ball and points in the paint, Hachimura would be a logical selection, though No. 7 overall could be a bit of a reach for the 21-year old big.

His defense definitely has a long way to go--as with most NBA draft prospects--but Hachimura’s situation is unique since he literally had a language barrier to overcome when he first got to Gonzaga in 2017. The belief right now is that Hachimura is in a comfortable spot right now in terms of both speaking and understanding English, as reporting from Sam Vecine of the The Athletic (LINK is behind a paywall) and others has backed up.

With that being said, the Japanese forward still makes too many mistakes on the defensive end of the floor to be a surefire top 10 pick.

He is at his core an offensive-minded player, and as a result has not exactly developed much in the way of defensive intensity over the years. Hachimura averaged 0.6 steals per game and 0.5 blocks per game for his NCAA career.

For comparison’s sake, his steal and block rates are almost identical to Marvin Bagley III during his time at Duke. Bagley had a highly productive rookie season with the Kings--landing a spot on the NBA All-Rookie First-Team--but the Kings defense was still four points worse when he was on the floor per cleaningtheglass.com ($).

Despite having similar measurements to Bagley, I don’t believe that Hachimura posses quite the level of athleticism that Bagley does, making his path to becoming an above average defender that much harder.

Ultimately, if Hachimura’s awesome shooting numbers from NBA 3-point range (41.7 percent) on a small sample size (36 attempts) aren’t smoke-and-mirrors, he will greatly outplay his draft position. Hachimura shot 52.1 percent on his NBA range 3-pointers and also has a career 74.6 percent free throw percentage. Whether he was diving to the rim on pick-and-rolls with Lauri spacing the floor, or playing in a high/low offense with another big on the bench unit, there is a clear path to Hachimura being effective in Chicago. It would just take a ton of patience from the Bulls new-look coaching staff.

Sports Talk Live Podcast: The Bulls need a point guard. The Bears Top 100 list continues

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USA TODAY

Sports Talk Live Podcast: The Bulls need a point guard. The Bears Top 100 list continues

0:00- Will Perdue drops by to talk hoops. What will the Bulls do this summer to address their point guard need?

7:00- The Bulls need a point guard. Derrick Rose is a free agent. Should they bring him back home?

11:30- Carman says the Bulls should consider trading for Lonzo Ball. Kap yells at him.

16:30- Will talks about this year's playoffs and if anybody will be the Warriors?

20:00- The Bears Top 100 list continues to dominate discussion. Chris makes the case for Jay Cutler to be higher. He gets yelled at.

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below: